Amidst looming concerns over internet security, Minister of Communications and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad has reiterated India’s support for a multi-stakeholder model for internet governance, where the government will play the role of safeguarding internet security. Speaking to Sandeep Singh and Anil Sasi, Prasad said that India has emerged a powerful voice in internet governance and that incrementally, governments across the world are realising the threat of terrorism and are open to government’s role on security front. Edited excerpts:
What is India’s stand on internet governance?
At the ICANN Summit at Marrakech in Morocco, I reiterated India’s support to multi-stakeholder model for governing internet. Till now, the internet was governed by the Ministry of Commerce, USA, but their contract expires at the end of September. Now there is discussion on what should be the new architecture to govern the Internet.
While the question has been whether to go for multilateral or multi-stakeholder model, India has supported the latter. The multilateral model calls for one country-one vote and India sits with a group of countries, whereas in the multistakeholder model, academia, private parties, NGOs and government’s have a say. Within that, India will stand as a powerful voice as it is a big democracy with more than a billion people. Our stand has been that on matters relating to national security, government will continue to have supreme right and control. India’s eloquent and effective intervention has added a serious dimension to the ongoing transition process and the role of government in internet and cyber security.
How was India’s position chalked out?
A committee including defence minister Manohar Parrikar, railway minister Suresh Prabhu and me was constituted to take a final call and we took a decision to go with the multi-stakeholder model. It is also important to note that it was for the first time that such a high-level delegation went (for the ICANN meet in Marrakesh, Morocco earlier this month). Alongside with me and my officials, we had the deputy NSA Arvind Gupta and chief of cyber security Gulshan Rai in the delegation.
What about the government’s role in the framework of internet governance?
Terrorism is a big issue all over the world and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) has been a major cause of concern. We instinctively believe that the internet has to be open, plural, inclusive and that access should be available without discrimination. To ensure its stability, it must also be secure and therefore while fully endorsing the multi-stakeholder model, the issue of security should also be in focus and that is an area where government has a very important role to play. If the internet is one of the finest creations of human mind, it ought not be allowed to be abused by few who unleash terror, cybercrime. Therefore, the role of government will continue to be relevant as a important stakeholder.
Has India’s view been accepted by other countries?
While we have maintained that governments must be in-charge of security as it is competent to do that, India’s stand was widely accepted and I see it as a great victory for India. India has taken a lead on various issues. Several countries including the representative from the US spoke to me and they agree with the looming threat of terrorism… The US has also appreciated India’s stand and is backing multistakeholder model and government’s role… It is important to note that in this looming terror threat, use of ICT is becoming a serious anxiety and naturally governments will have to play a role in sharing of information and cyber security issues.
What will be the role played by the NTIA?
ICANN was assigned the task to manage Internet by US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration under a contract and that expires on September 30. While NTIA is moving out, they will pay a role of during the transition from existing framework to the new governance model.
What kind of security layers will be brought in by the governments?
Since it has to be done by September-end, regular meetings will happen and our officers would attend them. I have already conveyed that India’s representation must be there. As for the security layers are concerned, those are issues of detail on which the world needs to work together and where internet bodies need to exchange views on security. So greater co-operation is needed in preventing fringe elements from using ICT.
Has there been any reference to Indian regulators’ position on differential pricing?
On net neutrality we have taken a position and given a shape to it. I am certain that in times to come, people will discuss India’s position on differential pricing. India has become a leader in many of these issues. I am of the view that internet has to be open and in that it can’t be fast for some and slow for some. I have told Parliament about our commitment to non-discriminatory access. It must, however, be understood that pricing is individual to a particular country but internet governance is an international issue.